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Being interviewed: Getting your story right

4 May 2021

Getting your story right

It’s natural to worry about the journalist and equally natural to worry about what they’re going to ask you when you are planning for a media interview. Which is why so many start their planning by over thinking the whole process. It goes something like this: “what questions would I ask me, if I was interviewing me?” which yields a raft of responses that may be beyond the reporter’s sphere of understanding.

You see, there’s probably little chance the reporter will come up with exactly the same kinds of questions that you would ask yourself, since they don’t do your job or have an understanding of internal pressures.

Furthermore, you may be over cluttering your mind and potentially in danger of offering a vast ‘buffet’ of material to the journalists – or live audience if it’s a broadcast interview. This means the selection or editing is being carried out by those with the least amount of expertise – with the added danger they may fixate on a peripheral aspect of the story that wasn’t a priority for you.

Turn the whole process on its head: rather than say what are they going to ask me, think what do I want to say?

Examine the components of this story for your organisation that are relevant right now, for the audience you are speaking to and what you would like that audience to do as a result of your interview.

There’s little point in getting mired in context, there has to be an action point leading to a resolution of the issue. For example, if you are a rail company who’s suffering delays caused by signalling issues, don’t simply describe the problem and the impact it’s having on you. Make sure the messaging is designed to dissuade people from travelling (action) in order to give you a chance to clear the backlog, (resolution).

This process is about devising a strategy with one or two big themes and big ideas. The media interview is not a place for lectures or a thesis. The curse of too much knowledge can often be undermined by the curse of too little time.